What Would Buddy Do?
Eagles - Giants Game Preview: It’s cold outside, and we wouldn’t have it any other way
Posted on January 11th, 2009 at 9:48 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Of course the Birds would have to play the Giants.  Of course.  As if it wasn’t offensive enough that the Giants won the Super Bowl last year, now they have a chance (a four-point chance at home with a bye week in the mix) to end the Eagles’ season.  It’s been a glorious and serendipitous couple weeks for the Eagles and their fans, but now we’ve to deal with the defending champs.  And I’ve signed up to watch it in person.

Certainly I can feel emboldened by our previous trip to the Meadowlands.  Sure, the intensity on the field and in the stands was different that day, and the Giants’ fans in our section were very polite (even before it was obvious that the Birds were beating them down), but that was definitely my best-ever Eagles experience in that stadium.

I do not expect a repeat of that experience today, either from the Eagles or the locals.    This is going to be as tough as it gets on the field and in the stands (I swear I’m not going to lose my temper if I absorb a snowball in the head — I will bend like the reed in the wind!).

But here’s the thing — can we ask for much more than this?  Even if the Eagles win, any matchup the following week will be a letdown.  The defending champs in rough conditions in their own soon-to-be-retired stadium?  With two of the best defensive teams in the league?  If the NFC East has its own set of Gods, surely they must be pleased by this offering.  As a fan, even if it doesn’t go our way, I consider myself lucky to have a seat for this one.

(At least that’s how I’m rationalizing it.  I’ll be a complete lunatic by kickoff I’m sure.  At least I can say I made a commercially reasonable effort to be an adult.)

What I’ll be shouting about:

I’m looking for someone to convince me that the Eagles will succeed on offense.  The weather is going to make it difficult to throw the ball effectively.  The offensive line didn’t get much of a push last week against the Vikings (though admittedly the Vikings are pretty tough against the run), the starting fullback (Buckhalter) weighs as much as I do (yikes!), and the starting running back continues to limp.  Can McNabb and the wideouts be strong enough — again — to move the chains?  That might be asking a lot.  I dunno.  It’s a bit disheartening.

Speaking of, Jon Runyan doesn’t look good.  And I don’t just mean because of his hirsute appearance or cretinous manner of discourse.  He didn’t move well against the Vikings last week, and I can’t imagine he’ll move any better in 28-degree weather.  But hey, he’s only facing Justin Tuck, that shouldn’t be a problem.  We can only assume that Runyan will have an ungodly cocktail of painkillers pumped into his bloodstream before the game and that he’ll hobble through it again.  Don’t worry, Jon.  Walking in your forties is completely overrated.

And then, the apocalypse scenario.  Runyan or one of the guards gets hurt.  Mike McGlynn is on IR.  Thus would Winston Justice enter the game.  That will be the point where my wife has permission to roofie me for the remainder of the game.

First tackle.  First foul.  First shot.  First goal (1).  So last week it was Brian Dawkins who established the appropriate level of violence with his brutal shot on Adrian Peterson.  Who’s going to step up with a big hit early this week?  Feels like it’s Sheldon Brown’s turn.

First tackle.  First foul.  First shot.  First goal (2).  Given my general level of concern about the offense’s ability to succeed against the Giants, it’s extremely important that the Eagles survive the inevitable rush of enthusiasm from New York in the first few minutes of the game.  Going down by more than 10 points in the first half could be deadly.

I wish I could be more excited about the special teams.  After the Minnesota game, I assumed that special teams would be an advantage for the Birds.  Then I remembered how David Akers is completely spooked by the Meadowlands and how multiple field goals were blocked.  Still, this will be the rookies’ place to shine today.  We’ve come to expect it from DeSean Jackson; wouldn’t it be lovely if we got something special from Demps?  The Giants struggle in their kickoff coverage — it could happen.

Things that do not worry me.  The Giants’ passing offense.  I imagine that the Eagles’ secondary thinks they can handle the Giants’ wideouts, and I imagine that they’d be correct.  And I’d also say I’m especially emboldened in this prediction after pulling my little stats in defense of Tavaris Jackson the other day.

Things that might worry us.  As well as the Eagles have defended the run over the past two months (really since the first Giants game), I still think they’ll have a tough time of it versus the G-Men today.  The Birds didn’t get a week off, and it’s cold outside — you can imagine them wearing down a bit.

Do we have bandwidth for one more superhero performance from 36?  It is unlikely that the Eagles will be able to win without a superhuman effort from the gimpy 36 Chambers of Brian Westbrook.  Westbrook had enough for the Eagles to win last week, but he didn’t look consistently strong throughout the game.  I can’t imagine that the Eagles win without Westbrook making at least one big play.  The nice thing about Westbrook is that he completely terrifies Giants fans.  In the parking lot a month ago, more than one person was still haunted by his punt return in 2003 — and then he goes and scores twice that afternoon.  Seriously, he has them spooked.  Also, if the wideouts don’t catch the ball, the Birds are cooked.

Hopefully they’ll score before they get to the 20.  Things haven’t looked so good in the red zone of late.  Huh.  Guess they’ll have to score from 21+ yards out!

Actual prediction.  Rational brain, you go away now, and stop reminding me how healthy the Giants are and how the Eagles have a pretty limited ceiling on offense, and how the conditions favor the rested, ball-control offense.  Instead, suggest that the Eagles’ defense really might be that good, and that Andy Reid and Jim Johnson are up to the challenge today.  I can’t imagine either team making it much past 20 points; let’s hope the Eagles are on the friendly side of that number.  Luckily, we can all rest assured that churches throughout the Delaware valley are filled with young men and boys ignoring a series of horrific wars around the globe and are silently praying for an Eagles victory.  And really, who are we to argue with the power of prayer?  Eagles 17, Giants 16.

GO BIRDS.

Eagles - Vikings Game Preview: don’t pretend you know what we’re getting today
Posted on January 4th, 2009 at 11:38 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Well none of us are going to pretend we expected this.  Sure, we could envision this, but to expect this would have been a bit strong after the Washington game.  The Eagles are actually in the playoffs.

So, are they any damn good?

That’s the thing about the Eagles game today.  We don’t actually know what the narrative of this season is yet.  Is is the “Eagles go on a run like 2006 (Washington game is ‘just a blip’)” or is it “Eagles stumble into playoffs, but are who we thought they were”?  If they win today, many many sins will be forgiven — even if they lose the following week.  Then they’re good but not good enough, and that’s a lot better than we thought we’d get in mid-November.  If they lose today, especially if they do so in one of the ways to which we’ve become accustomed, well, then they were essentially last year’s team with a better punt returner: good on paper, but bad when it matters.

I wouldn’t be completely shocked if the Eagles didn’t show up at all today, but I don’t think it’ll happen.  Rather, I think that there’s a compelling reason why it might not happen: the Eagles defense.  But more about that in a bit.

What I’ll be shouting about in re: today’s big Wild Card Game:

Your storylines.  It’s a little overwhelming (and by overwhelming, I mean that it makes writing a preview really challenging) when your team makes the playoffs in re: the clear national storylines.  As in, (1) Jim Johnson versus Tavaris Jackson (must include reference to total available quantity of blitzes), (2) Can the suddenly elite Eagles’ defense contain Adrian Peterson, (3) Teacher-versus-Pupil.  What’s sweet is that I feel good about each of those.  And the thing that worries me most is just that they go out and throw it 48 times.  Andy Reid, you haunt me!

Storylines we refuse to consider.  You’re not allowed to say, “This is an extremely close game in simulations with the Eagles winning just under 51 percent of the simulations. The key to the game is turnovers,” in an article entitled “Intel Report” on ESPN.  Generally speaking, I think blathermonkeys should be fired on the spot for uttering the phrase, “The key to the game is turnovers.”  The key to scoring is touchdowns and field goals.  The key to defense is tackling.  Yes.  It’s all true!

Fan storyline that’s a bit odd.  I assume most of you are like me in that you feel good about defense and special teams, and have no idea what we’re getting from the offense.  It’s worth noting that said offense set the franchise record for points scored…and I still don’t think we’re remotely irrational for not trusting them.

The last time these guys played in January.  The future Mrs. BountyBowl got us tickets for the game as a Christmas gift, circa December 2004.  This was a very clever strategy of hers for currying my affections.  Seemed to have worked out for everyone.  F***ing cold that day, though!

Hip, whatever.  The Birds paid a lot of money for Asante Samuel.  Mr. Samuel has traditionally been very successful in elimination games (save for an awkward moment along the sideline last February).  It’d be lovely if he felt compelled to demonstrate his penchant for the big moment against the Vikings.  Also, I’m pretending that the injury thing is an illusion.

Speaking of, he doesn’t need to play.  L.J. Smith has his impending free agency to worry about.  Let’s cut the guy some slack and let him get healthy.  It’s for the best.

The CamelCased One.  What a wonderful opportunity for young Master DeSean to go out and demonstrate he has a feel for the big moment (and redeem himself for the Washington game) than to make a play against the absolute worst punt coverage team in the league?  Very tempting, no?  We’d hate to think the kid had issues with the spotlight.

Speaking of wideouts.  Both Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown made circus catches against the Vikings when the Eagles played there last year.  A similar effort this afternoon would augur well for the Birds’ chances.

Jared Allen is scary, though not as scary as Demarcus Ware.  I think Allen will be slightly more dangerous than Ware was last week if only because Ware’s team completely quit.  But if the Birds can handle Ware, why not Allen?  (That said, I think Allen is excellent.)

Adrian Peterson is scary, though not as scary as Brian Westbrook.  Sure, AP (”Purple Jesus”) is a megastar guy who has a chance to be the best back of his generation.  But in a game that matters I feel extremely good about a Brian Westbrook, and not just because he might be the single smartest guy on the field.  He’s also good at not getting tackled!

Eagles thoughts from during the Cards - Falcons game.  While I know it’s not for everyone, it sure looks like you can run your offense through a couple dominant wideouts.  Those guys are good.

Eagles thoughts from during the Bolts - Colts game.  This was actually painful to watch for me, if only because there were so many little plays that almost but didn’t quite go the Chargers’ way (at least until the coin toss!).  Lots of dropped picks, bad bounces, that sort of thing.  It’s rare that I can feel like an Eagles fan watching another team.  Thanks, Chargers!

Things I’m glad I haven’t thought about in weeks.  How about that David Akers!  Doesn’t seem to be struggling any more.  And he’s got to feel good about a dome.

No one believes in you, Donovan.  I hope Mr. McNabb is on his laptop this morning reading the InterWebs just so he knows that NO ONE BELIEVES IN HIM.  Nope.  Not a one.  And the ONLY WAY HE CAN STICK IT TO THE FICKLE DOUBTERS is to play the game of his life.  That’s the only way you can really get us, Donovan.  Seriously.  It’ll totally piss us all off, because we don’t really like you and don’t want you to succeed.

Cardboard Box.  One of the things that makes me feel confident about the game today is that I think the Eagles actually will get the speed of the playoff game.  That is, there are a few guys on the field for the Eagles who won’t be intimidated by the moment and will come out playing fast.  Mostly I’m thinking that Brian Dawkins and/ or Sheldon Brown isn’t going to be afraid to endanger themselves in order to announce their presence with authority in the first few minutes of the game.  And now, because I can’t help it, is the link.  Treat yourself.

Game prediction. I think that the defense is going to show up this week for the Eagles, and that if the Birds can get it to 20 points they should be chill.  The problem is that I can’t really speak for the offense.  I think they could be awful.  I think it’s important that the Eagles wide receivers play well.  That means getting open and it means catching the ball.  Eagles 20, Vikings 13.

Eagles - Skins Game Preview: of late-season heroics and chips on shoulders
Posted on December 21st, 2008 at 2:02 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Anyone else feeling set up for spirit-crushing disaster this afternoon?

The this-is-2006-all-over-again meme has what looks to be a battered and reeling Washington Redskins team as a brief layover ahead of next week’s season-ending Boss Fight against the Cowboys.  Sure, the Redskins are a decent team, but they appear to be collapsing, and are doing all sorts of dysfunctional stuff (players calling out the coach, etc etc).  With the Birds playing so well of late, it looks like this week’s game should be more than manageable for the Eagles.

Certainly that’s the narrative we’d all prefer.  The problem is that this is a division game, and I get the sense (mostly due to Chris Cooley’s blog) that the Redskins really don’t like the Eagles.  I think the Skins will come to play today.  And I think that means that this will be a brutal, anxiety-filled affair.

My bullet points and storylines ahead of the game:

Chips on shoulders and other cheap motivational tactics.  I really can’t get enough of all this chip-on-shoulder talk.  First it was Dunavin, then it was Reggie Brown?  Sure.  Awesome.  I actually wish that the Eagles would take it a step further and start rocking the none-of-you-people-respect-us thing.  That would work quite well, actually, in that, um, we didn’t really respect the Eagles during the dark interregnum of the Cincy-and-Balmore fortnight.

Injury report.  Trent Cole has to be salivating at the prospect of getting a backup tackle this afternoon instead of massive and talented Chris Samuels.  Hopefully that will make up for the depleted Birds’ receiving corps and suddenly third-string offensive line, where it looks like Mike McGlynn will replace Todd Herremans.  We like the rumblings about how McGlynn likes to “play to the whistle” (=”play dirty”), but we’d prefer if he’d pipe down about the Penguins.

Of FedEx Field affairs of yesteryear.  I like that the Eagles traditionally play well on the road against Washington. That includes a 7-2 record over their last nine there as well as the best single play that the Birds turned in last year.  I’ve only been to FedEx Field once, for the late-season game in 2003 (the Eagles cruised but Westbrook tore his triceps, essentially dooming the season), and I found it to be a wholly disagreeable place.  $25 to park in some office park and THEN I had to take a bus to the stadium?  BOOOOO.  What’s nice is that I think B-West treats FedEx Field like an extended home game and Dunavin certainly doesn’t seem intimidated by it.

Speaking of Skins games.  That game on October 5 was humiliating.  I felt personally defrauded by how unpleasant a day that was at Lincoln Financial Field.  Hopefully the guys on the team feel the same way.  I can only assume that the run defense will turn in a better effort this afternoon.  My nightmare scenario today is a repeat of that day, though: lots of back-breaking third downs, patient running from the Skins, and a spotty/ pass-heavy offense from the Birds.  The thought of Jason Campbell methodically converting third-and-3s is horrifying.

Who I got.  In lieu of any further recycling of this week’s sports pages, I’ll do some predicting.  While I do think that the Redskins will show up for work this week and won’t half-ass it, I don’t think the last couple weeks of Eagles games are bogus.  That is, I think the Eagles are playing the run better on defense (and playing great defense across the board) and that Donovan McNabb just might be on a mission of vengeance.  I expect some legit NFC East pushing and/ or shoving this afternoon, and I expect the Eagles will be standing at the end: Eagles 23, Redskins 13.

Eagles - Browns Game Preview: The Audacity of a Little Town Called Keeping Hope Alive
Posted on December 15th, 2008 at 1:52 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Among the many positive outcomes following last Sunday’s trip to the Meadowlands was an exciting mobile computing scenario whereby we bought tickets for tonight’s game on the car ride home from New Jersey.  We’d been monitoring tickets all week (cheap these days!) hoping we’d have a reason to buy in (and no, we probably wouldn’t have signed up for this sort of trip on a school night had this been Kevin Kolb’s first start).  The Eagles obliged, and the credit card was thusly handed to the good folks at Stubhub.

Given that we’re taking the field trip down to Philly this evening and we still have the pesky day job, see below for an unfortunately abbreviated game preview.  What I’ll be shouting about:

Run-The-Ball-Andy meme in full effect.  With rain now in the forecast (booooo), there’s even more reason to expect that the Birds will follow their success on the ground over the past few weeks with a focus on the running game.  FO has the Browns at 18 against the pass and 21 against the run, so there’s a slight incentive to focus a bit more on running.  Also the Eagles will get Buckhalter back in the lineup.  But, well, this is Andy Reid.  We can’t be shocked if the Birds come out chucking it.

Eagles Primetime Evil still lurks.  I’m not willing to believe that the Arizona game (the Eagles’ first primetime win after seven nighttime losses in a row) breaks the Birds’ jinx.  Equally creepy is the part where the Browns have actually played well on Monday nights this year (including a win against the Giants).  I dunno.  Let’s hope that Thanksgiving was the inflection point on this graph.

Frightening levels of health.  So Buck’s back, Curtis is going to play post-concussion (don’t worry, you didn’t need those brain cells, mental health later in life is totally overrated), and pretty much everyone on defense is good to go?  Save for the right guard spot, the Eagles are very very blessed to be this healthy in Week 15.  Eliminates a lot of excuses, doesn’t it.

Former Eagles on the Browns.  It’ll be nice to see Hank Fraley and Donte Stallworth out there tonight.  I wonder if Fraley can offer some illuminating comments about who was and wasn’t puking in the Browns’ huddle?  That’d be sweet!

My own tale of imaginary football woe.  So I’ve got my West Coast semi-final this week, and this is the team where I went all-in on the Birds offense: I start both B-West and Dunavin.  I knew I’d be down a bunch going into tonight, but I also knew that there was the potential for a big swing with McNabb and Westbrook against a lame-duck Browns squad.  Unfortunately, my opponent scooped up the Birds’ defense (he already had DeSean Jackson), neutralizing a lot of the potential drama tonight.  BOOOO.  I’m sure you all care very deeply about this.

Final score prediction.  Don’t think I haven’t considered the horrors of a Birds’ bed-pooping this evening.  That’ll be a long, wet, and miserable drive home if we don’t get a result.  But even the most misanthropic Negadelphian inside me can’t buy the Birds blowing this one.  I think they’ll roll: Eagles 35, Browns 10.

Eagles - Giants (Extended) Game Preview: Birds Salvation?
Posted on December 7th, 2008 at 10:06 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Well, it was kind of a disaster the last time I went to Giants stadium, both on the field and off.  The Eagles got clobbered, and my night may have included some unnecessary heroics.  Both the Eagles and I survived the evening, but only barely.  Thankfully, my then-fiancee was there to witness it, and she still married me.

(Winston Justice, never doubt the potential for forgiveness and redemption!  There’s hope for you yet!)

I wasn’t kidding when I dropped the Terminator jokes about the Giants this week.  That they played so well in the middle of all the nonsense last weekend was actually pretty unnerving.  Shouldn’t they have been at least a little bit distracted?  And to go on the road against a tough divisional team on Sean Taylor day, I mean, yikes.  THEY CANNOT BE REASONED WITH.  THEY DON’T FEEL PAIN.

(Speaking of Terminator, I hope everyone caught the new teaser trailer.  And that you’re enjoying The Sarah Connor Chronicles as much as I am, which is a lot.  If I have any complaint with the Terminator TV show, it’s that they’ve trivialized the act of killing a Terminator.  It used to take two full hours of feature film to kill a Terminator and entire city blocks were routinely destroyed in the process; now they kill one every other week on TV.  Anyhoo, no more killer-robot talk for now.)

If they actually show up and play well again this week, well then I think we can consider Tom Coughlin for Hank Paulson’s job.  It’s just very difficult to argue that Tom Coughlin isn’t doing the best coaching job in the NFL right now.  It’s impressive and commendable as a management exercise, and it’s not like I’m eager to say nice things about the Giants.  These guys are good.

Some talking points ahead of this afternoon’s game:

The 36 Chambers of B-West’s relative assessment of his health.  So early in the week Brian Westbrook was telling folks that this was the “best [he’d] felt” since the beginning of the year, but then he didn’t practice Thursday or Friday and was listed as questionable in the final injury report.  These two seem like contradictory conditions, unless you consider that “best [he’d] felt” means that Westbrook has been feeling “terrible” for most of the season and that the extra rest over Thanksgiving has given him the opportunity to feel “marginally better than he will for the next month of his life.”

The rest of the RBs.  No Buck, so the Birds will be one gimpy #36 ankle tweak away from Lorenzo Booker and Kyle Eckel gamely attempting to pick up Steve Spagnuolo’s blitzes.  I’m sure it’ll be fine.

Obligatory Plax impact.  Yup, Igglesblog had it right, it’s silly to pretend that the Giants won’t miss Plax.  Against some other teams, it’ll matter.  Against the Eagles, it shouldn’t, unless the Giants’ offensive line doesn’t play well.  That is, it makes sense that the Birds sell out against the run and hope their secondary can hang and Eli doesn’t have a big day in the cold and wind.  But I actually think that the Giants will still run well against a stacked Birds line.

That which I envy most about the Giants.  Having a dominant offensive line really does make a difference, doesn’t it.  Things that the Giants aren’t afraid to do include, but are not limited to, “running on third-and-1.”

That which I envy second most about the Giants.  It’s not that the Eagles are afraid to spend expensive draft picks on defensive linemen.  They just didn’t manage to pick Justin Tuck.  He’ll only be killing the Birds for the next five to six seasons.  While similarly branded, Victor Abiamiri and Trevor Laws aren’t quite the same thing (though both went higher in their respective drafts).

As dominant as the Giants’ defense is.  Huh, the Eagles actually have three more sacks than the Giants this year (the teams are 3 and 4 in the NFL rankings, respectively).  We’d all be very surprised if the Birds weren’t at least minorly successful against the Giants’ passing game.  I’m having happy flashbacks to the 2006 game at the Meadowlands that ended with Trent Cole returning a pick for a TD.  If nothing else, I expect we’ll be able to say nice things about the 2008 Eagles defense.

Do they show these ads everywhere?  The Eli Manning “Unstoppable” ones?  Please tell me I see these just because I live in New York.

Yup, I’m calling it the Meadowlands.  Doesn’t it seem like everyone’s a little slower on the Meadowlands’ turf?  Or do I just imagine too many late-season games when I think of the Meadowlands and everyone looks slower in the cold?

Guys I hope seem fast.  Wouldn’t it be lovely if young Master DeSean or Quintin Demps made a big play on special teams?  (I’m actually assuming that DeSean will be the Birds’ leading receiver tomorrow.  It’s his first time in New York — I think he appreciates the big stage.)

No one can say the Eagles aren’t getting their shot.  The season could end today at the Meadowlands.  Given that there are 3 games remaining, that would be, um, disappointing (though not entirely surprising).  Yet the Eagles probably won’t be the last team to have their season end on the road against the Giants.  Even if the Eagles explore the edges of quantum possibility and sneak into the playoffs, any significant success will involve a trip to the Meadowlands (yup, going to keep calling it that).  So today is as good a day as any to see if the Eagles are really anything more than last year’s 8-8 team (but with a better punt returner).

What I’m wearing.  20-30 mph winds at the stadium and temperatures in the 30s?  We’re going to need to layer.  Also, we’re going to hope that the Eagles don’t try to throw it 55 times.

End of the turnpike/ road.  We have to acknowledge that this is likely the last game that Donovan McNabb, Brian Dawkins, Jon Runyan, and Tra Thomas will play as Eagles at the Meadowlands.  It might be the last game that some of them play as an Eagle.  I’m happy to absorb some abuse in the stadium to see it live.

My predicted final score.  So I definitely like the Eagles to cover 7 points (if you’re interested in such things).  They got a couple extra days off, and this week’s events have to have some impact on the Giants, right?  But can the Eagles actually win?  I’m not convinced.  And I really really really wanted to be convinced.  There’s a best-case scenario where the Eagles bring everyone to the line of scrimmage and dare Eli to throw the ball against them in the wind and it somehow works.  The flip side of that scenario is that I don’t know how the Eagles are going to score in windy conditions either.  I just can’t believe that anything but the totally predictable will happen today.  That is, I can’t believe that the Eagles will stop the Giants from running and somehow manage to score a bunch of points on the Giants’ defense.  Final score: Giants 27, Eagles 21.

Off to Jersey and the ancestral homeland.  Go Birds.

Birds - Cards Preview: Blackout Thursday
Posted on November 27th, 2008 at 7:40 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

I’ve been trying to figure out how our friends in Las Vegas have decided to anoint the Eagles three-point favorites over the Cardinals on Thursday night.  On paper, I guess it makes sense: teams from the Pacific time zone haven’t won in the Eastern time zone yet this season, and the Cards had a five-hour flight squeezed into a short week.  Under normal circumstances, I could understand the Birds being favorites here.

But, um, well, it sure looks like the Eagles are exploding before our eyes.  Wouldn’t it be nice if the Donovan-and-Andy sideshow of the past two weeks was really just a media-driven kerfuffle, and that the underlying performance of the team really wasn’t so bad?  Yeah.  Not so much.  This is as bad as the Eagles have looked since 2005, sloppy across the board, and distinctly uninterested in showing up for work.  And with Asante Samuel out against the best WR corps the Eagles have yet faced, plus what promises to be an even more feeble running game (hobbled B-West and no Buckhalter), well, it isn’t lining up well for the Birds.

Essentially, tonight feels like it can go one of two ways.  Since I’m only able to envision the future in terms of the past (like most people), all I’ve got for you is comparisons.  The hopeful comparison is the Carolina Monday Night game from 2006, in which the Eagles hung tough against a decent Panthers team and won the game 27-24 in the closing minutes when Lito Sheppard made a play in the corner of the end zone.  Big stage, a lot on the line, about the same point in the season (a week later, but close), and it came on the heels of a horrible road loss to an AFC team (45-21 to the Colts).  That was the play and the win that kicked off the somewhat improbable run to the NFC East title and playoff win that year.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

The Negadelphian comparison would be the Seattle Monday Night game from 2005.  You know, the one in the snow?  That ended 42-0?  That was the last time that the Eagles looked like they were quitting.  I really hope we don’t see that tonight.

Complete sucker that I am, I’m hoping that the Eagles show us something tonight.  I am.  But even in my post-gluttony haze I can’t conjure up the courage to convince myself that the Eagles are going to win tonight.  I’m just not feeling it.  Prediction: Cardinals 31, Eagles 13.

Birds - Ravens Preview: through the darkness?
Posted on November 23rd, 2008 at 10:59 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Due the vagaries of out-of-state commitments and air travel scheduling, I won’t be watching the Ravens game live (though I will have it on the DVR).  This might be for the best.  A week after torturing ourselves with five quarters of blah, I can’t imagine many Eagles fans are fired up for this week’s game.  A foul miasma appears to be floating around this team, and it’s really taken the joy out of football season.

A game with the Ravens is probably the last thing the Eagles needed this week.  A tough, physical offense that wants to run the ball?  A highly rated defense that will feast on a weakened Brian Westbrook and a mentally fragile Donovan McNabb?  And the potential indignity of losing a game to a guy, John Harbaugh, that was an employee of the organization for the past 10 years?

Yeah, that doesn’t feel good.

Here’s to hope, then.  Here’s to hoping we see something different this week: some fire, some enthusiasm, some fight.  Here’s to hoping that Donovan McNabb can answer the bell and come up with something special.  Here’s to hoping someone on defense does something scary and psychotic, and puts some fear into the Ravens.

If not, well, the obituaries on the Reid-McNabb era that kicked off this week will grow in both font size and justification.  Those obituaries may be inevitable this season, but I’d prefer if we waited until January for them.

Final score: Eagles 20, Ravens 10.

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Giants game preview part 2 (what I’m watching)
Posted on November 9th, 2008 at 6:05 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

As I’ve already covered the top-shelf storylines and offered a proposed final score for the Eagles - Giants game tonight, I apologize for the high miscellanea-to-actual-football-content ratio in this post. But it wouldn’t be the Giants game if I didn’t spoil myself a bit. So in addition to the overeating I’m planning for the game tonight (pulled pork that I’ve been slow-cooking for hours, mac and cheese, cole slaw, cocktail weenies, pecan pie — yeah, bad), I’m also treating myself to a bonus game preview/ football Sunday post.

What I’ll be shouting about during tonight’s game (or have already shouted about this afternoon):

Feeling oddly at peace in re: Plax. I’m typically paranoid about Plaxico Burress ahead of Giants games, but this time I’m feeling pretty relaxed about him. Not that he isn’t a great player who seems to enjoy Eagles-killing plays, but I guess I’m just taking it for granted that he’ll score against the Birds. As in, there are plenty of other things to worry about that might not actually happen; it isn’t worth sweating the givens, however disagreeable they may be.

Just to repeat in re: top-shelf storylines. Yup, I’m just as apprehensive in re: the Birds’ ability to handle the Giants at the line of scrimmage as I was yesterday. Just checking in on that.

Early test of the post-Phils afterglow? Now that the Phillies have won, we’re all supposed to be relatively mellow about the other teams for a little bit, right? As in, the Phightins won the World Series, so we all should have a sense of perspective w/r/t the other teams in town. Yup. Looks good on paper, doesn’t it. The Seahawks were a pretty easy landing last weekend, but bringing in the Giants for a primetime game at the Linc just a week later? That’s a cruel, cruel test of the constitution of our Sports Feelings’ Soul. And I wish I could pretend it was one I wasn’t going to fail miserably.

Update your bookmarks. Ugh. Enough with the splash page on the Birds’ official site. That splash page is the Saved By Zero of philadelphiaeagles.com. You want “index2.html” to go straight to the content. Speaking of, they’re pushing extended online coverage of tonight’s game on NFL.com — need to make sure I keep an eye on that.

Speaking of game coverage. The Jets were the Fox early game in New York. That would be the 40-0 at halftime Jets game. Fox stayed with it until halfway through the fourth quarter (it’s the home team, I know, they have to, but still). Yawn. If the NFL was willing to sell me more games, I wouldn’t have flipped the channel to a very exciting MLS game (Allez les RBVs!). Oh well.

Things I’m dreading ahead of the game. Brian Dawkins getting turned around and then run over by a Brandon Jacobs with a bit of momentum. McNabb losing a fumble on a sack. The Eagles throwing eight times in a row in the first quarter. A David Akers miss. Wasted timeouts due to jumpiness in re: blitzes.

Things I’m hopeful about ahead of the game. DeSean Jackson going out of his way to make a big play on national television. A more mobile McNabb extending plays. A stout game from the Eagles’ defensive tackles. A pick from Omar Gaither. Continued heroics from Juqua Parker. Brian Westbrook’s deep personal animosity for the New York Giants manifesting itself in many many touchdowns.

And that’s what I’ve got for you. Off to negotiations with the pulled pork. Go Birds.

Giants game preview part 1 (in which BountyBowl visits other parts of the Internet)
Posted on November 9th, 2008 at 3:52 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

The good people over at the Most Valuable Network invited me back to answer some questions about tonight’s big game.  You’re certainly welcome to click over and check it out, but I’ve also pasted the piece below.  It’s a bit high-level, but I worked hard to nerd it up with the Prospect Theory reference:

1. To what extent is the jury still out on this Eagles team, as they head out of the bye at 5-3?

Well I’m not quite sure which jury we’re talking about here, as I think that the Eagles actually have a pretty clear identity for the rest of the league: an above-average team in a tough division with a few important characters (Donovan McNabb, Andy Reid, Brian Dawkins) who are familiar…and maybe a little dull at this point. For the team’s fans, the team’s identity is eerily and frustratingly similar to that of last year’s team — occasionally brilliant, just enough to convince you that they might amount to something, but ultimately doomed to fail at the moments that matter most. Apart from the punt returner and a little bit more luck with takeaways, there isn’t much that’s convinced Eagles fans that this isn’t just last year’s 8-8 team all over again.

So I guess said jury actually just checked in, and their answer is “Same as last year; try not to get too excited.” Luckily, the jury also reminded us that the Phils just won the World Series, and so maybe we should have a wee bit more patience with the football team.

2. How would a win this week impact their postseason prospects — and how would a loss impact their playoff positioning, as well?

We’ll dispatch with the “they’re all big game” disclaimers and pleasantries, and note that the Eagles are currently 7th in the NFC, and 3rd in their division — both of which feel extremely fair for the team’s performance to date. The problem with respect to playoff positioning is that the Birds are 0-2 in the NFC East. A loss to the Giants drops them to 0-3, with two of the three remaining division games on the road. Ugh. This scenario might have been slightly more palatable were both the Bucs and Panthers playing very well right now (in Wek Nine, I’ll reluctantly admit that I’m now taking the NFC South seriously) — meaning that it’ll be tough to get a third NFC East team into the playoffs, especially if said team has only a middling conference record.

At the risk of being a complete Negadelphian, I’ll conservatively say that a loss will be a lot more damaging than a win will be helpful. That is, if the Birds win, they’re still in the mix for the division, at least on paper; if they lose, then the residents of the Delaware Valley will need to start worrying about the Tampa Bay from next week on — yikes!

(In defense of my Negadelphianess, a couple guys won the Nobel Prize for proving that people perceive losses as more painful than wins are pleasing, so maybe I’m not completely crazy.)

3. What is the single-biggest key to Sunday’s game for the Eagles, and what is your predicted final score?

In honor of Coach Reid’s midsection, I’m going with the big guys with the unattractive numbers and awkward knee braces. More specifically, line play both ways. The Eagles’ offensive line was humiliated by the Giants last year, and have struggled in certain (namely short-yardage) scenarios this year. They will definitely have quite a few things to worry about with the Giants’ front seven. On defense, the Eagles are stout in the middle of the defensive line but a little smaller to the outside — I expect that they’ll see a lot of Brandon Jacobs to the outside. I guess I could be anxious about the standard skill-position hype (Eli versus Donovan! Plax versus Asante!), but I feel like those matchups are window-dressing; the Eagles will need to stand up to the Giants along the line of scrimmage if they have any hope of winning Sunday night.

I wish I could pick the Eagles in this game. I really do. But I’m not convinced that they’ll be able to handle the Giants at the line. Maybe more importantly, I’m not convinced that the Eagles can get it done in a primetime game — with good reason. Forgive the factoid, but they’ve lost seven night games in a row and 13 of their last 15. That does not inspire confidence. I think the Giants are very confident about handling the Eagles, and that that confidence will carry them in a relatively tight and nervy game: Giants 26, Eagles 20.

(BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Here’s to hoping I’m very very wrong.)

The least interesting Eagles game since last December
Posted on October 26th, 2008 at 12:36 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

So which Philly sports fan isn’t hungover this morning?

After a crazy late-night ending for the Phightins, the Delaware Valley should be flooded with happy brain chemicals this morning.  I can’t believe that I’m saying this, but the Birds game this afternoon actually feels a bit inconsequential.  I mean, I’m going to leave the comfort of my home to watch it, and I’m sure I’ll get swept up in it once it starts, but, really, I’m definitely preoccupied by the baseball right now.  And I imagine I’m not the only one.

So. Eagles.  Sounds like you have something of a pass this week.  Try not to screw it up.

What I expect to shout about, abbreviated edition:

I hope the Eagles have a Pittsburgh-game-level commitment to defensing the run.  I hope the Birds are excited about  tackling Michael Turner, because they’re going to spend most of the afternoon doing it.  Turner is definitely a fantasy start this week.  The Falcons are silly if they don’t spend the afternoon handing off.

Similarly, I hope Andy Reid indulges himself.  Football Outsiders have the Falcons as 27th against the pass.  No one’s going to complain if McNabb throws the ball 35 times.

Welcome back, Kevin Curtis!  I hope it’s a big day for the Birds’ wideouts, Curtis included.  I hope they don’t just ease him back in — none of us would hate a deep ball to Curtis.

The ostensible best player on the team.  Very curious to see how many snaps Westbrook plays.  Will they take it light with B-West?  Surely his broken ribs plus a strong proof-of-concept from Buckhalter two weeks ago should be encouragement enough to share the carries, no?

Abiamiri watch. They said he was going to play a bit more, and I’m excited to see it.  If they thought this guy was better than Parker, then, well, I’m more than a bit curious.  Wasn’t he supposed to be the big end who could play the run?  The Birds will likely need that today.

It’s probably just the lingering Phillies endorphins talking, but I think the Eagles will win in a game that will feel a lot like the San Francisco game — the Falcons will hang around and create moments of darkness and despair for the good guys.  But I think the Birds will have another big fourth quarter and get it done.  Eagles 30, Falcons 20.



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